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Cruising now riskier than Bali for Aussie travellers

October 6, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The riskiest destination for travelling Australians isn’t a country – it’s cruising, according to figures released yesterday.

A striking revelation in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Consular State of Play report notes an astonishing increase in hospitalisation claims relating to New Caledonia – and there’s a reason for that.

Top five countries for hospitalisations in 2016-17:

  • Thailand: 195 – up 11%
  • Indonesia: 155 – up 1%
  • USA: 117 – down 4%
  • New Caledonia: 103 – up 37%
  • Vietnam: 71 – down 1%

“The surge in cases in New Caledonia reflects the growing popularity of cruise tourism in the Pacific, with an older demographic more vulnerable to illness or accident,” DFAT says.

The rise in popularity of cruises among Australians saw ‘Cruise’ overtake ‘Bali’ (Indonesia) as the most claimed upon destination for Travel Insurance Direct


Leading travel insurer Travel Insurance Direct (TID) reports exactly the same trend, confirming yesterday that it had experienced a 21% year-on-year increase in cruise-related claims over the most recent financial year. As a result, if you take “cruises” as a destination, it tops Bali as the most claimed upon sector in the financial year.

Most claims were medical, relating to conditions ranging from sea sickness and gastro all the way up to heart attacks.

“Unfortunately Medicare won’t cover you when you’re on a cruise ship,” TID travel safety expert Ash Zaman commented.

He warned would-be cruisers: “It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of the Pacific or just departing the shores of Australia with land still in sight – as the doctors on board are generally registered internationally, your Medicare card is no good on board.

“Having travel insurance for your cruise can mean the difference between coming home with fond memories or coming home with a hefty bill.”

Zaman said the average cruise-related claim was AUD 1037, but more serious medical cases ran into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Travel insurance covers cruisers for emergency medical treatment aboard and helicopter medical evacuations to get patients to the closest hospital for treatment should things take a turn for the worse, Zaman said.

“Apart from the doom and gloom medical stuff you will also be covered for all the other benefits of a travel insurance policy whilst on your cruise so things such as lost or stolen luggage and personal effects, cancellation of prepaid day excursions are covered.

“If you need to cancel your cruise altogether for an unforeseen event outside your control (i.e. you become ill and unfit to travel, the death of a close relative or even if you are made redundant from your job), you can claim the cost of the cruise cancellation on your policy.”

It’s important to check whether medical evacuation is covered in the policy, and in what circumstances.

DFAT spells out the reasons in a case study mentioned in its report:

Carol was excited about embarking on her round-the-world cruise. As part of her pre-departure preparations, she organised basic travel insurance. While at sea, and after suffering from a severe shortage of breath, Carol was diagnosed as having pulmonary emphysema, requiring oxygen until the next port. On arrival, Carol was taken to the nearest local hospital and later required a medivac to a better-equipped hospital. Carol’s basic travel insurance did not cover pre-existing medical conditions. She paid $90,000 for the medivac and her hospitalisation. Carol had to borrow money from her children to help repay these expenses.

Zaman advised travellers that buying an “international” or “cruise” option when purchasing a policy (even if it’s a domestic cruise) may protect against being out of pocket for medical bills.

“As always, remember to read the PDS [Product Disclosure Statement] to make sure the policy is right for you,” he advised.

“If you are unsure whether your cruise will accept Medicare or not you can always get in touch with your travel agent or the cruise line directly and ask ‘will you accept Medicare on board for medical treatment?’ that is a sure-fire way clear any confusion.”

Written by Peter Needham

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